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ON THIS DAY

ON THIS DAY

07 December 2001: Taleban surrender Kandahar. The Taleban regime has given up its stronghold in Kandahar, marking the beginning of the end of the 61-day war in Afghanistan. A deal brokered by Hamid Karzai, the head of Afghanistan’s new interim administration, has helped to secure the surrender of the hardline Taleban’s spiritual home. Taleban fighters have been laying down their arms after being bombarded by US planes. General Tommy Franks said troops were blocking fleeing Taleban soldiers. However, it has left the Bush administration facing a showdown with the country’s new leader over the fate of Taleban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, who is holed up in the city. Washington has flatly rejected provisions of the deal negotiated by Mr Karzai that appears to offer protection for the Taleban leadership. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes that a deal that will allow Mullah Omar to “live in dignity” would be unacceptable. Mr Rumsfeld has declared that US relations with Afghanistan’s new interim government will “turn south” if Mullah Omar is granted any sort of amnesty and that Washington may withdraw its military support and promise of financial aid. The fall of Kandahar will allow US and opposition forces to focus almost all of their resources on the hunt for Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains south of Jalalabad. Bin Laden is believed to be behind the terror attacks in the US on September 11. After a day of ferocious fighting anti-Taleban forces say they have captured Bin Laden’s command centre in his Tora Bora cave fortress. Downing Street has reported that it believes that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s second-in-command and long-time mentor, has been killed by an American air strike. The military authorities in Pakistan have meanwhile deployed helicopter gunships and extra troops along its 2,500km (1,500 mile) border with Afghanistan, hoping to make the border impenetrable. Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda forces are on the run after they were forced out of their mountain fortress by a day of intense bombardment. Anti-Taleban forces say al-Qaeda fighters have fled the cave complex and have moved into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan after hours of carpet bombing by American aircraft. The toppling of Kandahar has been achieved after weeks of bombardment with the US and its allies launching air attacks on Afghanistan, allowing the Taleban’s opponents to sweep them from power. The fall of Kandahar comes after the Afghan capital Kabul was retaken in November. (Source: BBC)

08 December 1987: Superpowers to reverse arms race. Leaders of the world’s two superpowers – the Soviet Union and the United States of America have signed the first ever treaty to reduce the size of their ground-based nuclear arsenals. After a three-day summit in Washington, US President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev put their names to the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in a first attempt to reverse the nuclear arms race. The treaty aims to destroy all medium- and shorter-range nuclear weapons in Europe capable of hitting European targets including western Russia. Mr Reagan described it as the realisation of “an impossible vision”. Mr Gorbachev said it had “universal significance for mankind”. There are fears that hawkish elements in the US Senate will kill off the treaty with amendments when the time comes for it to ratify the agreement. But if approved it will require the dismantling of all 1,752 Soviet and 859 US missiles with ranges of between 300 and 3,400 miles (482 to 5,472km) within three years. Both leaders stressed that this was only the first step towards an even more radical agreement to cut by half long-range nuclear weapons to be signed when Mr Reagan visits the USSR next year. Earlier, Mr Gorbachev – who is famed for his policy of “glasnost” (openness) – held a meeting at the Soviet embassy broadcast live on television with leading scientists, artists, writ

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